Returning to Anteater Stadium Sunday for the first time in three weeks, the UC Irvine women’s soccer team (10-5-1, 2-1-1) looked to ride on their recent momentum and draw a victory in front of their home crowd.
On the road, the ‘Eater’s backline was seemingly immovable, protecting the net by first drawing a tie with Long Beach State before clearing out UC Riverside and UC Davis, 2-0 and 1-0 respectively. The squad had yet to concede a goal in Big West conference play.
Then, a rolling Matador shot punctured the back of UCI’s net—and their 294 minute shutout streak.
Contrary to the tough loss, freshman Maddie Newsom, who has logged seven clean sheets on the season and snagged four saves in the losing effort, believed that UCI’s first conference loss has grounded the team and will push them to work even harder to climb their current Big West standings.
“[The loss] was very humbling because we just came off undefeated,” Newsom said, “We’re going to get back at it and practice all this week to try to beat Cal Poly this Friday.”
Prior to their matchup with the conference-leading Matadors, the ‘Eaters took a trip up to Davis last Thursday where they took on a 1-0 victory in dominating fashion.
UCI controlled the offensive tempo for the entirety of the game, outshooting the Aggies, 12-4 while also drawing six corner kicks to the opposition’s three.
In the first half, the ‘Eaters jumped out with five shots on Davis with two landing right on frame.
Freshman midfielder Jessica Miclat was the first to check Aggie sophomore keeper Alexis Smith at the post before sophomore forward Jonnae Joseph took one for herself and bombed one from thirty yards out.
After 50 minutes of probing around the box and tapping at the door with a steady attack, UCI finally broke one through the net on their first attempt of the second half, sixth on the match.
Putting some of her ball movement on display, junior midfielder Alex Karlowitsch created some space toward the right side of the box where she fed a streaking Noel Baham for a one-timer right passed Smith’s clutches.
Baham’s game-winner marks the fourth on the season while Karlowitsch added a fifth assist into her books, tying the most she has dished out since her freshman year.
Following the conversation, the ‘Eaters did not let up offensively with six more attempts at the net, resulting in a quiet evening for Newsom, who would go onto to secure her eighth shutout after seeing and snagging just two shots that had gone her way late in the contest.
The victory would mark the 10th overall for the ‘Eaters, the first time in three years that the program has reached double digits on the winning column.
In the dismay of a loud, joyous ‘Eater crowd, it took just a slow start and momentary lapse on defense to rupture UCI’s undefeated conference streak Sunday evening.
CSUN (9-3-5, 4-1-1) spoiled the ‘Eaters’ home coming four minutes into the contest when senior forward Camille Watson deftly wiggled through a number of UCI defenders to set up redshirt senior forward Kourtney Kutscher with an open window to fire the game winner into the left post.
“We weren’t ready…we just didn’t start the way we needed to start,” head coach Scott Juniper said. “We kind of spaced out too often today…and we got to learn that it’s tough to win games at this level.”
The goal was enough to light a spark under the ‘Eaters who turned a switch and retaliated with a numberof looks at the Matador post.
UCI’s first knock at redshirt keeper Jovani McCaskill came at the 25th minute when a foul awarded the ‘Eaters a corner kick.
Sent in my junior forward Kiana Palacios, a number of ‘Eaters descended into the box where they emerged atop the ball and nearly leveled the game.
Miclat was the first to collect it and launch it at McCaskill who, along with her teammates, built a wall around the post. When Miclat’s shot was deflected, the ‘Eaters scrambled for it and managed to put up two more attempts that both pinballed against attacker and defender before ultimately being sent away.
Karlowitsch and Baham gave McCaskill a few more scares to close out the first half.
Within the 35th minute, Karlowitsch nabbed an opportunity near the box that nearly arched over McCaskill, but the 5’10’’ San Diego native managed to hop up and tip it over.
Seven minutes later, Baham sent another one high up that just went over the crossbar.
The competitiveness of the game was heightened in the second half as the ‘Eaters aggressively searched foran equalizer while the Matador’s looked to build some insurance.
CSUN would jump out first with a huge opportunity on a penalty kick that was awarded to Watson after a UCI foul was called from within the box.
Sizing up Newsom, Watson drove a diagonal liner toward the net but Newsom read it, dove for it, and recovered it to keep the lead at one.
“I did not want to go down two to zero,” Newsom said of the play, “One [to] zero was already been bad enough and I was not going to lose this game two to zero. So I said to myself, ‘I’m going to save this ball’ and as soon as I did my teammates really lifted me up and that boosted my confidence a whole lot.”
For UCI, junior midfielder Grayson Galbraith drew a gasp from the crowd just minutes later when she came away with shot that smacked into the crossbar and was subsequently cleared by the Matadors.
Despite the continual high energy offenses of both teams, it was the ‘Eaters who had time as an adversary and despite outshooting CSUN 10-8, UCI could not find a crack at the net with McCaskill hovering between the posts.
McCaskill would go on to finish with four saves that helped secure her 12 shutout, which is the most of any goal keeper in the Big West conference.
Regardless of the loss, coach Juniper credited the ‘Eaters and Newsom’s ability to hold their own and to put the clamps down defensively.
“Maddie’s save was unbelievable…[she’s] one of the top goal keepers in the country,” coach Juniper said. “She still needs to do a whole lot more, so we’re excited to see where she goes next. I thought she had her best game of the season today…she kept us in the game.”
With a staggered schedule that saw to nearly a week of inaction, UCI holds 7 points in conference and is now engaged in a four-way tie with UC Davis (6-7-3, 2-2-1), UC Santa Barbara (11-2-2, 2-1-1), and Cal Poly (6-8-2, 1-3-1), who will visit the ‘Eaters this Friday at 7pm.
Coach Juniper believes that the team will have to play on a much more consistent basis with composure when the game is on the line.
“We have to start well…we have to apply the principles all the time…[and] we have to stay composed even when we’re at ten minutes left in the game,” coach Juniper said. “When we do that, we manage the game and we do really really well.”